Anwar: Oil profit enough to cover education bill
SHAH ALAM, April 8 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has insisted that Malaysia’s oil revenue could cover shortages in the country’s education bill, dismissing Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s claim yesterday that abolishing a federal student loan scheme would cost taxpayers RM43 billion.
The opposition leader, speaking at a rally in Stadium Melawati here last night, also disputed the figure given by Najib and said his calculations were much lower.
The prime minister was reported as saying yesterday that Anwar’s proposal to abolish the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loan scheme was not feasible as it would cost the government RM43 billion, thus incurring an additional tax burden on Malaysians.
“Najib says RM43 billion, I count far less,” said Anwar at the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) rally last night.
Pakatan Rakyat had previously promised to abolish PTPTN loans and provide Malaysians with free higher education should it come to power, maintaining that scrapping the scheme was possible by eliminating the country’s wasteful expenditure.
Anwar had also cited the country’s RM150 billion revenue, saying that much money was wasted on construction that had ballooned in cost as well as leakages and abuse as reported by the Auditor-General.
Students, led by Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia (SMM), are planning to hold a rally next month calling for the abolition of the PTPTN.
But Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin said recently that students who want the PTPTN to be scrapped should vote for the opposition rather than take to the streets as the 13th general election would be called soon.
Khaled had earlier announced at the closing ceremony of the 2012 National Higher Education Carnival here that the Cabinet had approved an additional RM6 billion in funding for PTPTN loans for 2012/13.
His ministry had asked for an additional RM16.5 billion to fund higher education loans for the 2012-2015 period.
Khaled also said the PTPTN was necessary despite the low tuition fees at public universities as the cost of food and accommodation is borne by students.
Najib said yesterday that only three countries in the world fully bear the cost of higher education for the people such as Norway, which imposed high taxes, a move he said was undesirable for Malaysia.
He said the government did not want to burden Malaysians by imposing high taxes in order to abolish the PTPTN.
Najib pointed out that his administration currently bore 90 per cent of the country’s higher education costs, and stressed that the PTPTN was only being utilised to pay for students’ tuition fees.